Carrie Ellzey, Zach Katris Named Franklin City Schools' 2021 Project Excellence Winners

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Zach Katris. Photo Contributed.

Project Excellence, which operates under the Area Progress Council of Warren County, annually recognizes two teachers from each of Warren County’s eight school districts, plus the Warren County Career Center, the Greater Ohio Virtual School, and the Warren County Educational Service Center. Teachers are nominated by peers, parents, and students. Project Excellence was established in 1988 to honor excellence in teaching throughout Warren County; since its inception, nearly 700 educators have been recognized.

Ellzey has a B.A. in Special Education and an M. Ed. in Educational Administration and Supervision from Arizona State University. She’s taken additional courses at schools including UD to complete her Master's plus 30 credits.

She’s been teaching special education for 15 years overall, seven in Franklin. Her Wildcat career includes four years at Anthony Wayne, and now three years at Gerke, where the Tier 3 classes have been consolidated. Ellzey said, “It is so wonderful to have the support of my amazing team close by and to see the benefits of having all of our students in one building sharing resources and forming relationships with classmates and staff across their elementary years. I am currently teaching grades 3 through 5.”

Ellzey said the most rewarding part of teaching “comes in the subtle day to day happenings. . . the impromptu hugs, laughs, and smiles from the kids. It’s the quiet times when they are vulnerable and willing to share their hearts with me, the times we play and are goofy together, and the excited smiles when they finally realize they can do something that has been so hard for them to understand or do before. I feel good knowing that I am working towards a worthwhile goal and that with the support of my amazing team of colleagues, we will be able to help at least one of these children make a breakthrough. We carry these breakthroughs in all of our hearts. I am fortunate to have many of my students for multiple years and the relationships I form with not only them but their families are often lasting and truly meaningful.”

She added, “I am truly appreciative of the recognition and the feeling of being seen, particularly at a time when all teachers have been going above and beyond to meet the needs of our students during this unprecedented year.”

Zach Katis has a B.A. in Sociology/Philosophy from John Carroll University and an M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction from U. of Cincinnati; he also has certificates in Gifted Intervention and Educational Leadership. Katris’ future educational goal is a Ph.D. in Education & Policy.

He’s been with the district for seven years, all at Franklin High School where he’s taught 11th & 12th graders AP US Government & Politics, US Government, and Sociology.

Katris said that the best parts of being a teacher are, “The handshakes and ‘thank yous’ students give [him] at the end of each school year. Nothing in education is worth as much as your students acknowledging your hard work, appreciating the effort you have put forth for them, thanking you for being a positive influence in their lives, and using the knowledge and skill sets they've learned to be successful in their lives."

He noted that memorable moments from his teaching career were being named the National Honor Society Teacher of the Year in 2017 and 2019, an award decided by students.

Katris admits that he became an educator for a lofty reason. He had concluded that “all the major issues facing our country and those around the world could be resolved by improving and expanding public education systems. Pageant dreams aside, I thought if I were a teacher, I could be one small part of that goal… at least in my classroom. So, I became one. As each year begins and ends, I review my 'why' and contemplate how best to impact those students I have the pleasure of working with. I realize that beyond improving on my mistakes or managing my relationships, I enjoy giving my community’s children the opportunity to learn. I enjoy interacting with students, picking their brains, making them solve problems, and asking them to do it again the next day, and the day after that, and so on. I enjoy the lifelong pursuit of learning [where the] only goal is that of making each of us a little better and the world a little kinder. I am both proud and humbled to be named a Project Excellence winner and join the ranks of local teachers who strive to improve public education.”

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Carrie Elizey
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